Bill Forcing Ricketts To Apply For Federal Rental, Utility Aid Funds Advances On Voice Vote

     A bill to force Nebraska Gov Pete Ricketts to apply for $120-million dollars in emergency federal funding for rental assistance advanced to final consideration Wednesday on a voice vote.

      Ricketts has all but promised to veto the bill, so supporters will need at least 30 votes to override. They had 29 on first-round debate, but sponsor Matt Hansen of Lincoln is optimistic he’ll have over 30 for the final vote. 

       Ricketts had tweeted his supporters before Wednesday’s voice vote, urging them to call their senators and tell them to vote no. 

       The governor has been adamant against applying for the second round of funding, saying much of the money from the first round hasn’t been spent, adding that “the storm has passed,” and “we must guard against becoming a welfare state.”

      Nebraska is one of just 2 states to apply for the ARPA, American Rescue Plan Act, money – which will revert to other states if Nebraska doesn’t apply by the end of the month.

      Earlier in the session, representatives of several rural nonprofit groups testified that more rental aid was needed, with calls from rural residents about getting help increasing sharply in recent weeks.

      As for so much of the first-round funding not being claimed, they said the state’s online application system is so cumbersome that many of those eligible for the money just gave up trying to get it.